July 12, 2024
Omega 3 Supplements

Novel Mechanism Identified for Alleviating Liver Condition with Omega 3 Supplements

A team of researchers led by Oregon State University has identified a mechanism through which dietary omega 3 supplements can alleviate nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a dangerous liver condition. The discovery opens up new possibilities for drug research in a disease that currently lacks FDA-approved medications.

The research team, led by Natalia Shulzhenko, Andrey Morgun, and Donald Jump, used a technique called multi-omic network analysis to understand how dietary omega 3 supplements work to combat NASH. They discovered that these supplements target a protein growth factor called betacellulin, which has positive roles in the body but also contributes to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

NASH is associated with metabolic syndrome, a disorder that occurs when fat in the liver becomes toxic, leading to liver cell death, inflammation, and fibrosis. If left untreated, it can progress to cirrhosis, liver failure, and potentially death. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by conditions such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low levels of good cholesterol, and high levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides.

Chronic low-grade inflammation caused by a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars contributes to the development of metabolic syndrome. Apart from NASH, metabolic syndrome is also linked to cognitive dysfunction, dementia, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Approximately 35% of adults in the U.S. are estimated to have metabolic syndrome.

To investigate the mechanism of action, the researchers used mouse models and analyzed human liver transcriptome data. They found that betacellulin is consistently up-regulated in the livers of cancer patients and that omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) down-regulate betacellulin in both mice and humans with NASH. This suggests that targeting betacellulin expression is one of the mechanisms by which omega 3 PUFA reduces NASH induced by a western diet.

The findings not only advance our understanding of how NASH develops and progresses but also present a new opportunity for pharmaceutical research. The researchers have identified betacellulin as a potential drug target and suggest that monitoring the levels of this protein during treatment could help determine optimal dosages for each patient. This precision-medicine approach could revolutionize NASH treatment and liver cancer prevention using specific omega 3 PUFA.

Omega 3 PUFA, including docosahexaenoic acid, are not produced by the body and must be obtained through the diet. They are found in cold-water fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as in certain nuts, seeds, and plant oils. Omega 3 fatty acids play a vital role in cognitive function, vision, cell growth, regulation of metabolic processes, and cardiovascular function.

The study was conducted by Jyothi Padiadpu, a postdoctoral researcher at the OSU College of Pharmacy, and involved collaboration with scientists from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute. The research received support from grants provided by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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